Chapter 1 : Sunday, October 31, 1999. 4am
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"Whoa! It's me!" Her fiancé, Scotsman Marcus Campbell held his hands up in surrender. Tall, blonde, and built like an athlete, Marcus was Alara's rock. Her sapphire-blue eyes closed in relief as she lowered her wand. Everything was always calmer when Marcus was around.
She turned back to watch the door to the pub. "Any news?"
"Bobbie's trying to get in touch with Andromeda Tonks, see if we can get confirmation one way or the other. But he was practically a Weasley himself. I can't believe he wasn't there."
Alara nodded and swallowed hard. "Any word on survivors?"
"No, but there's no mention of casualties either. It's going to take time to re-establish our lines of communication Lassie. Try to be hopeful."
Alara nodded blankly.
Marcus peeked around the corner at the pub where several tough looking thugs milled around. "Those look like Yaxley's men. This is could get very ugly very, very fast."
Alara looked at the men. "I know. But I have to do this. Rachel and I have been friends...."
"I know, I know. But you don't have to do this alone."
"Yes, I do. Too many people will attract attention from them and I know she'll listen to me."
Marcus took Alara's face in his hands and kissed her gently. "I swear, you're so brave you should have been in Gryffindor. Maybe if you had been I'd have met you sooner."
Alara smiled. "The Sorting Hat mentioned Gryffindor; I talked it out of it."
Marcus's eyebrow shot up into his thick, blonde hair. "How did you manage that?"
"I told it that if it placed me in Gryffindor I'd cry. Apparently, if you're so cowardly you cry at a simple sorting, that disqualifies you from the bravery of Gryffindor."
"Smart." Marcus kissed her forehead.
Alara's sapphire eyes twinkled. "Ravenclaw." Neither one of them actually believed she'd been able to influence the Sorting Hat, but the distraction helped calm both their fears.
Marcus suddenly scowled at the pub door. The men were definitely Snatchers. "Sure you don't want me to come with you?"
Alara shook her head as she sized up the thugs. "No, you go. Walter and Nigel will need your help. I'll be along with Rachel shortly." She brushed his lips with another kiss. "I love you." Alara pulled her hat down around her face and stepped out into the street, stumbling her steps slightly to make herself look like she'd had a bit too much to drink. She stepped into the pub and to the bar, ordering a Firewhiskey. She nodded to the green and gold banner hanging back behind the bar. "I hear the Harpies have hired a new Keeper. Think they'll finally win it all this year?"
"Fan club is upstairs." The barkeep didn't give her a second glance.
Alara threw a few galleons on the bar, enough to include a generous tip and headed up the circular staircase behind her with her drink.
She knocked on the closed door and as the door cracked open Alara was greeted by a dark, thick young man with an even thicker uni-brow. An equally thick Welsh accent met her British ears. "Who are ya, whadda ya need?"
Alara gulped at the sheer size of the man greeting her. Alara tried to look casual as she held up her drink and toasted him. "I hear the Harpies have hired a new Keeper. Think they'll finally win it all this year?"
The man scowled at her, then opened the door. The room was small, with room for about a dozen witches and wizards. At least twice that many were packed inside it, pipe smoke from the elder wizards drifted up in small rings, some of which did battle with other rings as the people talked with each other in hushed tones. At the far end of the room, stood Alara's target: tall and lithe, Rachel Adams had delicate features surrounded by a mass of light brown curls.
"Alara!" Rachel exclaimed. "Wait, what's wrong?"
"Listen to me, all of you!" Alara's voice shook with urgency as she dumped her drink in a nearby full grown Mandrake. The plant shuddered as it absorbed the alcohol and then fell back against the wall contentedly. "You have to clear out of here, now."
"Who's the Brit telling us what ta do?" An old witch in the back of the room bored her steel-grey eyes into Alara's. Around Alara, the room burst into mumbles of agreement.
"Stop," Rachel commanded the old witch. "Let her speak." The entire room went silent. Clearly, Rachel commanded the respect of these people. "Alara, what's happened?
Alara took a deep breath and calmed her trembling voice. "There's been a coup at the Ministry of Magic tonight; the Death Eaters have taken over. You-Know-Who, he's stopped moving in the shadows and has moved into the open. You're all in danger here. You must leave. Now!"
"Scrimgeour?" Rachel asked as hushed murmurs filled the room.
"Minister Scrimgeour is dead."
Rumbles of disbelief murmured through the crowd as the level of fear amongst them began to rise. Finally, a wrinkled old witch grabbed her cane and shook it at Alara. "That old lion can't be dead. 'e promised us the Ministry would fight again' You-Know-Who!"
"I saw his body," she answered through gritted teeth as she struggled to keep her emotions in check. Her voice failed and Alara closed her eyes at the memory. "They tortured him..." Her voice broke. "Everyone is going underground. Please, you must do the same. You must leave now!
"There's more isn't there?" Rachel read Alara's face perfectly; the two had always been able to do that to each other.
Alara pulled herself back together. "Shortly after the Ministry fell there was an attack at a wedding on the outskirts of Ottery St. Catchpole."
"Merlin's Beard!" shouted an old Wizard with a moustache that hung down off his face. "The Weasleys?"
An old Witch across the room stood up in to confront the wizard with a dismissive gesture. "They're in the Order of the Phoenix! They have protective wards. Ain't nobody getting in their place!"
Alara's voice cracked. "When the Ministry fell into Death Eater hands all the wards were broken. Now, we don't know exactly what happened, but nobody can account..."
"Oh my God...." Rachel covered her mouth with her hands. "Alara, where's Harry Potter?"
Alara shook her head as she whispered "We don't know. To be fair, we don't even know if he was at the wedding. We're trying; we can't raise anyone from the Order just yet. But given Potter's history with the Weasleys..."
There was a loud bang as the front door to the pub splintered into a million pieces. Shouting and the sounds of wands firing came from below.
"Everyone out. NOW!" Rachel shouted. A few witches and wizards Apparated out immediately, the rest went scrambling for broomsticks or Port Keys.
Alara moved through the crowd, not caring who she pushed out of her way. "Rachel!!! You can't stay here!!!"
"Like hell I can't!" Rachel pushed her way past Alara as she pulled out her wand. "These people are here because of me. I will NOT abandon them!" The fight in the empty bar was non-existent. Within moments the sound of Snatcher footfalls on the stairs assaulted them.
"These people are here because they..." the door burst open with a shattering crash as the Death Eaters moved in on the Resistance meeting, wands drawn. " DOWN!!!" Alara screamed as a bolt of green light barely missed them both.
"Alara it's just a nightmare..."
Alara shot upright in her bed. "Rachel!" She screamed again.
"Dream..." Severus Snape took hold of her frightened face. "It was just a dream. You're in your apartment at Hogwarts and the war is over. You're just having another nightmare."
The tears that were threatening in her dream began to appear in reality. She looked at Severus, taking a moment to adjust back to the waking world. She grabbed hold of her boyfriend of two months and unable to do anything else, she sobbed at the memory of the night the Ministry of Magic fell.
"We sat together at dinner after our sorting, and were pretty much inseparable after that." Alara pulled her robe tighter across her as she sat on the couch in her front room. Next to her, Severus sat listening intently as Maggie, Alara's tiny House-elf, brought out tea. "Thank you Maggie." Unlike most witches, Alara treated her House-elf with respect and dignity. Something Severus didn't quite understand, but was slowly getting used to. Alara took a sip of the steaming tea and closed her eyes, allowing the warmth calm her. The small clock on the mantle struck four.
"She was Ravenclaw's Keeper, right?"
Alara nodded. "Starting fifth year. I made Captain and moved her from Chaser to Keeper. I made her an honorary co-captain our sixth and seventh year; won the Quidditch cup both years. Not too bad for a bunch of book-heads. I became an Auror, she became a healer. But we’ve always stayed in touch."
"I remember her. Or rather I should say I remember a couple of giggling teenagers in my N.E.W.T. class." He cast a sideways glare at her.
Alara chuckled as she sipped her tea.
"Why did Death Eaters target her?
"She's Muggle-born and she was a voice against blood superiority that people listened to. You have to understand Severus. We were just a couple of fresh-faced kids when Voldemort rose up the first time; we were only second years when he fell. We didn't understand all the political intricacies; we just knew what it felt like to live in fear. It made a huge impression on both of us. When the rumors started about his return she vowed to do whatever she could to prevent other kids from experiencing the racism she did. She has a real knack for inspiring people and calling them to action. It didn't surprise me at all that Yaxley marked her right away.”
"She survived that night?"
Alara nodded as she stared at her tea. "She was badly injured, but yeah, she survived. Ten other people didn't, including the pub owner: any hopes of a resistance cell in Holyhead died that night as well. Rachel was badly injured: after she was stable enough to travel I got her out of the horror through our Underground Railroad to France. She stayed there through the end of the war where she worked harder than a House-elf to unite families the various resistance cells sent her way. So many of them arrived wounded and traumatized that she became an expert in Death Eater curses. She's working as a researcher at St. Mungo's in the experimental magic area. She's doing great."
Alara sighed and put her tea down, then leaned heavily into Severus as she pulled his arms around her. "How do you do it Severus? How do you sleep at night having seen what we have? Having done what we have? When do you get to the point where the wounded and the dead stop haunting you?"
"They never go away," he said softly as he closed his eyes and saw the faces of Lily Potter and Albus Dumbledore in front of a host of others. He held her tighter. "But Occlumency can help. A well-disciplined mind is the key."
Alara relaxed further into his chest as her voice grew sleepy. "Will you teach me?"
"Of course," he kissed her head, breathing in her scent.
"I love you Severus," she whispered barely awake. "You're always here for me. I'm so glad I have you in my life."
"Let's get you to bed," he answered.
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